Best of breed roars at Lion-Nathan

Best of breed software specialists are winning out over mega-vendor application suites in the vital national industry of beer brewing, with beverage giant Lion Nathan toasting smaller brands as proving better value for its manufacturing operations.

According to Lion Nathan CIO, Darryl Warren, when it comes to picking software to run a multinational beverage manufacturer, best of breed remains his preferred drop because it delivers on its promise out of the box, rather than after a lengthy customization process.

Warren said that while he has considered the likes of SAP and Oracle as enterprise resource planning platforms, he will continue to stick with his incumbent QAD-based manufacturing reporting system, because it offers the best pedigree in his industry.

"We did a strategic IT review in 2003 and adopted a build-once, deploy-many approach. Lion Nathan is a best-of-breed organization rather than, say a [large applications stack]-based deployment.

Warren said the approach has enabled his organization to maintain an extremely high granularity in its data holdings with "hundreds of millions" of transactions recorded down to individual customers by stock keeping unit (SKU).

"If you get the underlying data right, then you can multi-purpose that across different parts of the organization," Warren said.

In Lion Nathan's case, this means QAD's ERP and financials running into a Business Objects dashboard via a data warehouse held on Oracle DataStore. Applications are then drawn together using a Tibco architecture offering.

Warren said the adoption of business intelligence software had allowed his organization to reduce data complexity for many of Lion Nathan's brands, because managers now saw an information interface customized to their needs, rather than receiving "massive decks of information".

The approach has also freed up the IT shop to pursue other interests including a 200-strong deployment of O2 wireless pocket computers for sales reps in the field to execute requests into the company's Siebel CRM system.

"It's fantastic. The first sign you see of an activity is when it's logged into the system. There's no need for human intervention."

Warren said the brewer's new daily sales reporting capability has been successfully rolled out to around 400 key management users.

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